Grace and Freedom in a Secular Age
Contingency, Vulnerability, and Hospitality
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
In the course of a long and distinguished academic and civic career, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has been, for articulate atheists and learned believers alike, an incisive, insightful, gracious, and challenging conversation partner on issues that arise at the intersection and interaction of religion, society, and culture.
Grace and Freedom in a Secular Age offers a concise exposition of key ideas – contingency, otherness, freedom, vulnerability and mutuality – that inform his probing analyses of the dynamics of religious belief and religious denial in the pervasive contemporary culture he calls a "a secular age," within which religious belief and practice have, for many, become just an option. Those ideas provide the basis from which Rossi argues that, despite a clear-eyed recognition of the deep fractures of meaning and the pervasive fragmentation of once stable societal connections that a secular age has brought in its wake, Taylor also sees and affirms strong grounds for hope in a healing of our broken and fractured world and for the possibilities—and the importance of—active human participation in that healing. Taylor points to signs indicative of potent re-compositions and renewals taking place in religious belief and practice from its interaction with the dynamics of secular culture, particularly ones that make possible radical enactments of deeper human solidarity and mutuality, of which the one most often potent is the reconciliation of enemies. In pointing out these signs, Taylor suggests a richly expansive reading of the Christian doctrine of Creation, as it marks the radical contingency of all that is upon a freely bestowed divine self-giving: Creation is the ongoing enactment of the divine hospitality of the Triune God.
"For some time, Philip Rossi has been involved in an intensive engagement with Charles Taylor and his epochal analyses of human agency and our present spiritual condition. We are now fortunate to have the fruit of that encounter, in the form of Rossi’s constructive exposition of the theological possibilities residing in Taylor’s philosophical project. This essay powerfully shows how what Rossi calls ‘the dynamics of worldly contingency’—the vulnerability, fragility, finitude and fragmentation attending the human condition—provide openings for the pursuit of fullness and transcendence even in the midst of our ‘secular age. Rossi demonstrates, with his customary perceptiveness and care, that Taylor’s sensitivity to the mutuality of faith and reason and his portrait of our ‘situated freedom’ can ground a (distinctly Catholic) theology of grace and an ethic of hospitality and solidarity. In giving us the gift of this book, Rossi embodies the very ethic he presents."~William Barberi, The Catholic University of America
"Speaking to a secularized and fragmented world that often feels as if it simply lies in pieces around us, Rossi advances Charles Taylor’s analysis of the ‘secular age’ in which we dwell in order to demonstrate the continued theological power of not forcing sharp divisions between nature and grace. Focusing on the experience of freedom found in our vulnerability and in the otherness we encounter within the immanent, contingent, worldly spaces of our lives, Rossi reinvigorates a Catholic ‘both/and’ response to the false dichotomy between nature and grace in order to find the transcendent and the grace-filled in just these broken places. Stressing interdependence and hospitality, and the ways we accompany each other as a result of the hospitable gestures we make, we are capable of bringing about transformative encounters within the fragmented and contingent spaces we inhabit today."~Colby Dickinson, Loyola University Chicago
"Starting from Charles Taylor’s incisive diagnosis of our secular age, Rossi passionately demonstrates a way to see God in all things in a fragile and fractured world where the old certainties no longer hold. By discerning how contingency, vulnerability, and hospitality can mirror the Triune outpouring of grace, Rossi’s magnificent volume fulfills the fundamental task of all Christian theology, to ‘give a reason for our hope’ (1 Peter 3:15)."~Anthony J. Godzieba, Villanova University
"Offers an invaluable diagnostic assessment of the defining personal and social issues of our day inspired by the writings of Charles Taylor. It is distinguished by the bridge discourse it provides between Taylor’s Hegelian heritage and Philip Rossi’s Kantian expertise. Rossi has given us a crucial resource for Catholic theology and philosophy."~Bradford Hinze, Fordham University
"This book is a must-read for theologians interested in the anthropological conditions of modernity and how a doctrine of grace might come to meet it. Rossi begins with an in-depth discussion of the work of Charles Taylor. He then engages thinkers attuned to the strictures human finitude places on our discourse about God, but who are nevertheless open to spirituality. A fine discussion envisioning how persons encounter grace in the fractures of finitude."~Jacqueline Mariña, Purdue University
"Significant because of the way in which it gives truly serious consideration to the need for theology to engage with the reality and thought of the world it addresses."~Bruce K. Ward, Thorneloe University at Laurentian University